Me and my Neti Pot


So, while all of the cool kids are at the Seattle Metroblog meetup at the Elysian tonight, enjoying locally brewed beer and pub food, I’m at home moping about the fact that the head cold that ruined my weekend still hasn’t gone away. See y’all in August, I guess.

Several months ago, I started doing yoga again on a regular basis. On the weekend, I go to one of the introductory yoga classes at the Capitol Hill Eight Limbs Yoga Center. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to lunchtime flow yoga classes at the downtown Allstar Fitness. After years of weight-training, I’m finding yoga equally as challenging, but a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

Eight Limbs has a nice little boutique that sells yoga clothing and gear — pricey, but good quality stuff. The boyfriend and I had been eyeing the neti pots for some time, both repulsed and intrigued by the idea of “irrigating” our nasal passages. Two weeks ago, we finally broke down and bought one, along with a bag of additive-free salt. ($5 for a little bag — but you can use good quality sea salt and that would be a lot cheaper.)

Neti pots are a common feature of traditional Asian medicine, but are only just starting to become familiar in the West. Basically a ceramic, plastic or metal pot with a longish spout, they allow you to pour warm saline solution into your sinuses, which helps to cleanse them of mucus, pollen, dust, pollution or whatever else you happen to have lurking up there.

Using a neti pot takes some getting used to. Pouring salt water into your nose is just plain freaky the first time. While you can still breathe through your mouth, there’s an unescapable sensation of drowning. I found this slightly panic inducing, but it also brought back vivid (and mostly pleasant) childhood memories of getting a nose full of sea water in the surf of oceanside Cape Cod beaches. (A good discussion of how to use a neti pot can be found on the Brown University student health services website, under the sinusitus listing.)

When I get a head cold I often get fairly severe sinus pain. When I came down with a mild cold this past Friday, I was afraid to use the neti pot at first, fearing that it would make my sore sinuses hurt even more. But after a largely sleepless Sunday night, I finally broke down and tried it. At first, it did hurt — if your sinuses are already painful from congestion, the additional pressure of the water can be uncomfortable. But I was desperate enough to persist and gradually the discomfort subsided. Afterwards, my sinuses felt wonderfully clear and the pain had gone away — I was finally able to get some sleep.

From what I hear, neti pots are also great for allergies. A friend at work told me that regular irrigation helps to keep her sinuses comfortable during allergy season. She uses a simple glass measuring cup as her neti pot, which is a great, cheap alternative. (The pretty little ceramic neti pot that I bought at Eight Limbs cost about $18.)

7 Comments so far

  1. josh (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

    We missed you at the happy hour! Hope you feel better soon.

  2. shauna (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 11:07 pm

    I’m both fascinated and horrified that you were pouring warm water in your sinuses instead of joining us at the Elysian.

    I’m pretty sure you had the more visceral experience, though.

    Feel better!

  3. naiah (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 11:18 pm

    It would have been great to get to meet you tonight, but there’s next month. I hope you feel better soon!

  4. Kelly Hills (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

    You were missed! :)

  5. skye (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 7:46 pm

    You know, just reading this makes me feel like I’m drowning. I hope I never get that desperate.

  6. Janet Bruner (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2005 @ 6:35 am

    How can I know if the sea salt I have is OK to irrigate my nasal passages and sinuses? I have
    (food grade) sea salt. Would it be OK to use it?
    Thanks for any help.


  7. Cat Nilan (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2005 @ 6:46 am

    From the Brown University website (see above for link):

    “First, it is important not to use common table salt to irrigate the nose on a regular basis, because it contains certain chemicals such as iodine and ‘anti-clumping’ additives that can be harmful if used frequently. You can use Kosher salt (found in most groceries right along with the table salt) or sea salt found in health food stores.”

    We started out using the fancy salt from the yoga boutique but quickly moved to plain old sea salt (purchased from Trader Joe’s). It works fine. I think the main thing is to not use standard table salt.

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